It seems in sports, that all the attention goes to the head coach of the team. They are, after all, supposed to be the brains of the operation, which is why the word “head” always has to come before “coach” when referring to them. John Yorke is Pacific Lutheran University’s head coach, and his coaching staff—comprised of Peter Voiles, Jamie Bloomstine and Peter Lechak—are entering their fifth season coaching together.
But for Bloomstine, it’s season 20 in the program, and 16th coaching Lute soccer players. Over this past weekend, Bloomstine celebrated his 300th career game as assistant coach to PLU’s Mens Soccer team. Although the team didn’t come away with a win on a dreary day in Salem, Oregon, Bloomstine was honored for his contribution to the team and the university.
“Jamie was obviously a player here for four years and had stayed connected,” Yorke said. “He loves black and gold probably more than most people do, and he’s an example of someone who is a life-long Lute soccer player.”
Fourty-year-old Bloomstine has spent more than half of his life committed to PLU and its sporting tradition, and almost his entire life devoted to soccer. Bloomstine started playing soccer when he was six while growing up in Auburn. He played at Kentwood High School under coach Jimmy Dunn, who was also the PLU head coach at the time.
“During my junior year of high school Jimmy really started recruiting me,” Bloomstine said. “He said he was really interested in me and it came down to choosing between PLU and Western, so I chose PLU.”
A standout forward during his youth career, Bloomstine quickly broke into the starting eleven during his first year in 1992 as an outside midfielder because of his precise distribution and vision. The fact that he is left-footed also made him a valuable asset to a ‘92 team that made it to the NAIA National Tournament in San Antonio, Texas. Despite losing both games, Bloomstine says it is one of his favorite memories as a player.
Trying His Hand at Coaching
As four years came and went as a player, Bloomstine’s 31 career goals still place him as the seventh leading goalscorer in PLU soccer history.
His scoring efforts even resulted in a third round draft pick in 1995 by the Vancouver 86ers of the now defunct A-League, the former top tier of men’s professional soccer.
“I just got a random phone call one day actually from an agent who said I got drafted,” Bloomstine said. “I was like ‘what are you talking about? Like military a draft?’ Honestly, I thought it was a prank call.”
Wanting instead to stay and finish out his education at PLU, Bloomstine declined the offer and started coaching with Dunn during fall of ‘97 after turning 24. Bloomstine helped lead the team to a third place finish in Northwest Conference and an overall record of 14-6-2. When Dunn retired at the end of the ‘97 season, Bloomstine also left after just one season in the program. He was not gone for long, though, and came back to PLU and the team in 2000 as a graduate student. After a brief stint as assistant with head coach Joe Waters, current coach and alumnus Yorke took over in 2002.
“When I first got hired, the athletic director at the time said that he thought Jamie was still interested in coaching,” Yorke said.”I got his number and I could tell he loved the program and was anxious to move it forward, so my impression was that he would be a great guy to help with the transition.”
12 years, 13 seasons and one NWC title later, Bloomstine and Yorke are still leading the Lutes out to battle together. Yorke credits Bloomstine’s experience with some of the teams success over the years. Being alumni and coaches is not easy, and during many of Bloomstine’s 300 games coaching both men have had to keep their emotions in check.
“I think Jamie [Bloomstine] gets very passionate about games and competition,” Yorke said. “I think we’ve learned how to balance being a passionate alum and a coach thats also passionate.”
It’s that undying passion, however, that has helped Bloomstine remain in Tacoma for so long.
“I never thought I’d be around this long,” Bloomstine said. “Whether it be that other opportunities come up or you get burned out or whatever, but I have a good passion for the game and enjoy developing players.”
It could be one of the main reasons Bloomstine has been able to stick around for so long is his love for the team and its players. Almost any time anyone is within earshot of Bloomstine, they will hear him cracking a joke at an unsuspecting victim of his choosing. Not even his fellow coaches are safe, and they are usually the primary targets. If Bloomstine is laughing, the rest of the team is usually laughing too. When the team gets down, Bloomstine is the first one to bring it back up.
“It’s definitely his humor,” senior Justin Manao said. “It lightens everyones mood and helps the team relax and take the edge off of a loss or bad game.”
“He helps build good comeraderie in the group,” Manao said.
Even though Bloomstine’s infectious personality can be a distraction, Yorke thinks it adds an important dynamic to the team in terms of the coaching staff.
“I think the coaches have to have different personalities,” Yorke said. “All the players should have someone they feel comfortable with, and I think his ability to connect with some of the players helps a lot.”
The Journey Continues
Bloomstine’s record as player and coach sits at a respectable 204-151-25. Having been through some of the lowest lows and highest highs of the program, Bloomstine has three favorite moments. The first and second, trips to NAIA and NCAA National Tournaments in 1992 as a player and 2011 as a coach, respectively. His third was scoring three goals in 20 minutes in the ‘92 NAIA Regional semi-final against Concordia, leading PLU to a 4-3 win. With game number 301 coming up this weekend against NWC-leading Whitworth, the question now is how much longer Bloomstine will stick around.
“You never imagine being with one program for so long,” Bloomstine said. “Looking back, time goes by so fast, and you always want to win more conferences, but I don’t know if I’ll make it to 600.”
Whether he sticks around or not, here’s to another 300.